LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 19, 2020: Liverpool's Joel Matip during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Crystal Palace FC and Liverpool FC at Selhurst Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Joel Matip steps up recovery as Klopp drafts 5 youngsters into training

Joel Matip has returned to outdoor work as he edges closer to his return from an ankle injury, with Jurgen Klopp watching on as he trained individually on Wednesday.

Matip has been sidelined since the end of January with an ankle ligament problem sustained in the 3-1 win over Tottenham, with the centre-back due to miss the rest of the season.

Klopp is hopeful he, along with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez will report back fully fit for pre-season, though, and all three are making encouraging steps towards doing so.

Updates on Van Dijk and Gomez have been more frequent – largely due to Matip’s avoidance of social media – but the No. 32 was pictured running outside at Kirkby on Wednesday.

There were no obvious signs of strapping around his ankle, and with less than two months until the start of pre-season it could be that Matip is nearing a return to light training.

It would be a big boost to both player and club, with the 29-year-old undoubtedly an important part of Klopp’s squad despite his persistent fitness issues.

With four days until the trip to Man United – which could have a major bearing on Liverpool’s top-four hopes – the Reds have looked to put the disappointment of a 1-1 draw with Newcastle behind them.

The manager called upon fresh faces to fill out his squad, too, with a number of youngsters involved in a lively session.

KIRKBY, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 27, 2021: Liverpool's Kaide Gordon during the Under-18 Premier League match between Liverpool FC Under-18's and Everton FC Under-23's at the Liverpool Academy. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Kaide Gordon, Billy Koumetio and Owen Beck were all part of training, along with the more regularly involved Ben Woodburn and Leighton Clarkson, while Jakub Ojrzynski and Liam Hughes were in the goalkeeping group.

There was no sign of Nat Phillips, who may still be nursing a hamstring problem, nor Caoimhin Kelleher or Divock Origi, who have been absent for lengthy periods.

But there appear to be no new injury problems ahead of a crucial tie, and there is still time for Phillips to prove his fitness – if he does, it is likely he starts alongside Ozan Kabak at Old Trafford.

Liverpool squad pictured in training

Goalkeepers: Alisson, Adrian, Ojrzynski, Hughes

Defenders: Kabak, R.Williams, B.Davies, Koumetio, Alexander-Arnold, Robertson, N.Williams, Tsimikas, Beck

Midfielders: Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Thiago, Milner, Keita, Jones, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Clarkson, Woodburn

Forwards: Salah, Mane, Firmino, Jota, Gordon